There are two types of joy. A person experiences one type when he receives something. The other type of joy can be felt when giving something away. The joy of giving is incomparable to the joy of receiving.
A person who wishes to understand whether he is truly succeeding in spiritual life should begin with testing himself, whether he rejoices in giving, and not in receiving. Is it unsettling for him to be the recipient, and is he happy to be the giver?
If a person is on a right track spiritually, he does not memorise the good that he does and never forgets even the smallest good done to him. He cannot let the merest good deed of others towards him go unnoticed.
He may have given someone a whole vineyard and forgotten about it, but he would never forget one bunch of grapes from that vineyard, given to him in return.
He does not remember having given someone a dozen carved wooden icons, but if someone gives him a single printed icon sealed in plastic, he will be touched by this gift, despite its low price, and will thankfully consider ways to repay it afterwards.
He can build a church, donate land for construction, and forget about it.
In other words, the right spiritual path is to forget the good you have done and remember the good that others have done to you. He who has come to such a state becomes a true man of God.
Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain with parishioners
Conversely, if someone keeps forgetting the good deeds done to him by others and remembers the good deeds that he himself has done, it is the opposite of what Christ wants.
In this case, assessments such as "You gave me so much and I gave you so much" are manifestations of "bazaar" pettiness. I try to give to those who are in greatest need. I try not to be petty like a market trader, thinking: "So-and-so gave me these books, now I owe him so much. Now I have to give him something to settle my debts". Or: "This person has not given me anything, so he will not get anything from me either."
This may be right by worldly standards, but the one who takes experiences human gladness, while the one who gives embraces divine joy.
We receive divine joy by giving. For example, someone gives me a book and in doing so he experiences spiritual, divine joy. When I take this book, I rejoice as a human being.
Later, when I give this book to someone else, I will also rejoice divinely, and the one who receives it from me will rejoice as a human until he continues this chain by passing the book further, and so on.
See how one object can make many people experience both divine and human joy?
Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain
We must learn to enjoy giving. A person has the right attitude if he is happy by serving others. This means that he is "connected" to Christ's "network" and has divine joy.
The joy that he experiences in giving something or helping someone contains the divine "oxygen." However, when a person rejoices in what he receives, or in what others sacrifice for him, then there is stench and suffocation in his joy.
People who forget about their ego and give themselves to others [...] – what joy they feel! They are favoured by Christ.
Alas, most people rejoice in receiving. They deprive themselves of divine joy and this causes them torment.
Christ is pleased when we love our neighbor more than ourselves, and He fills us with divine joy. Look, He did not confine himself to the commandment "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself", but offered Himself as a sacrifice for man.
From the Conversations with St. Paisios of the Holy Mountain,
Volume 2, "Spiritual Awakening".
Learn more about the Elder Paisios from our article Life and Miracles of St. Paisios of the Holy Mountain.
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